The Spanish diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. Fruits and vegetables are eaten in season and in abundance. Fresh salads accompany meals. Beans, chickpeas, and rice are served throughout the year. People drink lots of fresh water. Seafood, admirable in Spain for its quality, freshness and overwhelming varieties is devoured insatiably.
Who can speak of the Spanish diet and fail to mention garlic and olive oil? A meal without either is not a meal eaten in Spain. Garlic is added to soups, sautéed in dishes, and hung in bars and homes for good luck. Spain, the world´s largest producer of olive oil, is also the leading consumer of it. Olive oil is the chief flavoring ingredient of all Spanish cuisine. With its most distinct taste, smell and texture, Spanish cooking would be something altogether different without it.
In the United States, Spanish cuisine is often confused with Mexican cuisine. While there are certain common ingredients the two cuisines are not similar and should not be confused.
Rich in history and culture, Spanish cooking owes a great deal to the different peoples, armies and importers that have filled the country’s past. Spain has the Romans to thank for the basis of its cuisine.
Under the influence of Rome came the tradition in which bread, olive oil and wine, are not sufficient into themselves, but are rather three parts of the larger whole. Few meals, if any, in Spain are not accompanied with this “indispensable trio”. The Moors brought to the cooking not only sophisticated sautéeing techniques but foods as important as almonds, sugar cane, citrus fruits, and seasonings such as saffron, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg which give Spanish cuisine its unique Middle Eastern flair. From the Americas came potatoes, red and green peppers, tomatoes, and exotic nut sauces. In Spanish cooking are fused the best of ingredients and cooking techniques from foreign cuisines.
In Spain, breakfast is a light meal of coffee and toast, is generally eaten around 8 a.m. Lunch, the most substantial meal of the day, consisting of two or three courses with dessert, is served between 2 and 3 p.m. Between 8 and 9 p.m. people often break for “tapas” (hors d’oeuvres or small bits of food). Dinner is generally served after 9:00 p.m. and is a lighter meal than lunch.
The elements that make up an authentic Spanish meal do not rely solely on the table; they are found in the atmosphere, the appreciation of the food, and the friends that dine with you.